In prophesying an extremely dark period of punishment in Israel’s history, Isaiah sees even further forward to a future time of hope and deliverance. The prophet announces that the Lord will send a Redeemer, the promised Messiah, to usher in a new day: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
The prophecy reveals that the Messiah will be a human-born male child upon whose shoulders the government will rest. The Hebrew word translated as “government” in Isaiah 9:6 means “dominion, power, or sovereignty through legal authority.” Israel’s Savior was to be a sovereign King who would rule on David’s throne (see Psalm 132:10–18). The prophecy continues to disclose that the Messiah’s “government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity” (NLT). Seven centuries later, the angel Gabriel announces Messiah’s birth to His mother, Mary: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32–33, ESV).
This language of placing dominion or “the government” on someone’s shoulders symbolizes royal authority. In Isaiah 22:22, Eliakim is to be given Shebna’s position of power and influence as King Hezekiah’s administrator: “I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” Revelation 3:7 links this passage to the sovereign rule granted to the Messiah, King Jesus.
As Jesus prepared to send out His disciples, He told them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). As the supreme ruler of God’s heavenly kingdom, Jesus Christ “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25).
As we consider these words—the government will be on His shoulders—we can’t help but think of the cross our Lord carried on His shoulders while a crown of thorns was resting on His brow. Justin Martyr, the second-century philosopher-turned-Christian teacher, recognized this imagery as signifying “the power of the cross, which, at his crucifixion, he placed on his shoulders” (McKinion, S. A., ed., Isaiah 1—39, InterVarsity Press, 2004, p. 71).
Jesus Christ had the divine government—the dominion, power, and authority of the kingdom of heaven—on His shoulders when He bore the cross for our sins (1 Corinthians 1:18; Colossians 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24). For it was by this act that He conquered sin, death, hell, and the devil (John 16:33; Acts 2:24; Romans 6:9–10; 1 Corinthians 15:24–25, 54–57; 1 John 3:8; 2 Timothy 1:10). The apostle Paul acknowledges that Jesus is “the head over every ruler and authority” (Colossians 2:10, NLT). His sacrifice on the cross “canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross” (Colossians 2:14–15, NLT).
Jesus Christ ushered in a glorious new day for all humanity when the King “humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:8–11, NLT).
One day, during the millennial kingdom, Christ will rule from Zion, and the world will see the government placed on His shoulders. The kingdom of the world will become “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). When Jesus sits on the throne of David, “in the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it” (Isaiah 2:2).
Hope, deliverance, and peace for God’s people were established when Jesus Christ endured the cross. Now He “is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV). The highest government in all creation with power to exercise absolute dominion over every being in heaven and on earth will be on His shoulders for all eternity (Psalm 146:10). He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 17:14; 19:16).